COVID-19: Managing the human and business impact of coronavirus
What to do now. What to do next.
April 3, 2020
The global COVID-19 pandemic has fast become the biggest global event of our lifetimes. Our experiences―as customers, employees, citizens, humans―are forever changed, and our attitudes and behaviors are changing as a result.
Once the immediate threat of the virus has passed, what will have changed in the way we think and behave, and how will that affect the way we design, communicate, build and run the experiences that people need and want?
We see five major human implications to expect from people’s behavior now, and next. Each has deep experience implications for all organizations.
Over the last ten years, leading companies have already instituted behavior change tools and practices to monitor, collect, analyze and act on a mix of digital surveys, behavioral signals, listening and sentiment. Now, the need for these capabilities will become foundational to experience creation, and the speed at which companies can – and, increasingly must – respond to them will become sources of competitive advantage.
Global businesses across most industries are under immense pressure due to the COVID-19 crisis. Business process functions are severely disrupted. For many multinationals, complex and business-critical services that are handled by global operations must be reassessed and restructured. Organizations must respond rapidly to maintain continuity and to safeguard and de-risk their operations to serve their businesses now, and to position them for growth post-COVID-19. Adopting a distributed global services model can help large organizations across industries—from oil and gas to communications and media—to diffuse enterprise risk. And automating routine tasks by taking advantage of human+machine models, where everyone is a knowledge worker, can also help to serve businesses now, and to position them for growth post-COVID-19.
We recommend the following actions to help organizations make their global business services more resilient for the challenges of today and tomorrow:
The impact of COVID-19 on customers is profound and the full impact on the economy is still unknown. While Direct-to-Consumer and B2B organizations scramble to meet immediate and emergency needs, the pandemic has activated a new wave of commerce innovation. New habits and behaviors are forming that are likely to remain after the crisis has passed – and this presents opportunities.
In particular, organizations have an opportunity to double-down on digital commerce, expanding existing offerings and creating new lines of service. For example, retailers are rallying to rapidly stand up “contactless” delivery and curb-side pick-up services for consumers.
Leaders can start by addressing three critical questions, considering the geography, industry, size and digital commerce maturity of their business:
Immediate action can also be taken via the following short-term tactical plan:
Within 24 hours: Rapid Customer & Channel Immersion
Rapid cross functional-style assessment of current issues, shifting consumer patterns, value chain breakage/pain points. Identify critical individuals to give missing details on the major issues across the value chain.
Within 72 hours: Product Strategy & Prioritization
Triage and group the issues, pain points, and opportunities into a prioritized product backlog. Customer research identifies new patterns, marketplace strategy established to align with shifts in demand, supply chain audit completed, technology ecosystem partnerships identified.
Within 5 days: Product Teams Deployed
Initial pilot plan established at the conclusion of Week 1 sprint. Deployment of MVP in Initial Channel(s) (i.e. “Hub”) with minimum required features to test strain on systems. Identify marketing needs to drive awareness and demand.
Within 14 days: Optimization
Analyze data from MVP based on initial consumer response and strain on existing supply chain or systems. Dependencies outlined and optimized. Prepare for full launch at the conclusion of Sprint 2.
Next: Scale & Sprint
Scale the launch of the successful pilot product/channels.
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak requires brands to move at unprecedented speed to serve their customers with quality while caring for their employees with compassion. That means re-evaluating how contact centers are leveraged, how employees deliver relevant customer experiences, where they work, and how digital channels can be used to support the increase in contact center volume. Consider banking, for example, where social distancing restrictions will push customers toward digital channels for service.
Leaders that can make the shift to new ways of working will help reduce potential revenue loss, forge new levels of trust with their workforce, and position their businesses for renewed growth once the pandemic subsides.
We recommend that contact center executives address three critical areas:
The impact of COVID-19 on supply chain disruption was already clear when the coronavirus outbreak was confined to parts of Asia. With the virus spreading rapidly, and several economies and regions now in lockdown, the severity is greater still.
The supply chain is critical in getting goods and services quickly, safely and securely to those at risk of infection or who are working at the frontline of the medical response, such as life sciences companies developing COVID-19 tests and treatments. Companies have a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of their employees, their supply chain workers, and the wider communities they operate in, while maintaining a flow of products and materials.
Companies should consider executing the following short-term tactical plan:
A continuous cycle of risk sensing, analysis, configuration, response and operation will help to optimize results and mitigate risks:
The greatest immediate impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is on workforces. Organizations are therefore focusing on their primary responsibility: caring for their people while rapidly managing the shift to new patterns of work.
At this critical time, they must see through these changes in ways that gain and maintain the trust of their people. That trust depends on leaders demonstrating their care for individuals as well as the wider workforce and community. It means sharing a clear plan and transparently showing how decisions are made. And it requires leadership teams who can proactively respond rather than react, anticipating their people’s changing needs. This is particularly important in Public Service organizations, where leadership needs to calm markets and reassure citizens, businesses, government employees and community stakeholders.
Accenture analysis shows that even in the best of times, people’s trust and engagement at work is a function of three human needs: physical, mental and relational. These needs are magnified during times of crisis. Leaders who rise to the challenge by meeting them will build higher levels of human resilience that, in turn enable their people to adapt, engage and serve customers.
It does not fall to Chief Human Resources Officers to create the right environment to satisfy these human needs. All members of the C-suite must actively play their roles. We suggest 10 immediate steps that C-suite leaders can take to build human resilience.
One of the immediate impacts of COVID-19 is higher rates of sick leave. Another is the need to manage an immediate shift to remote working. These challenges can be addressed by creating an Elastic Digital Workplace. Interventions will differ for each organization, but they should be based on the following foundations:
An Elastic Digital Workplace is enabled by policies and culture, technology and communications. The fundamental elements include collaboration tools, robust network connectivity to enable virtual working and advanced security procedures. As important are clear business continuity working protocols and communications, as well as guidance for employees, partners and customers.
Accenture will update these pages as the fast-changing situation raises new challenges for business and organizations. If you would like to speak to our experts, please contact us.